A Monitor Report
16 Apr, 2017  |
: The Haj and Umrah Ministry of Saudi Arabia has extended the possibility to perform Umrah by one month, giving more opportunities for Muslims keen on the ritual.
The extended Umrah season will end on Shawwal 15 (July 10) instead of Ramadan 15 (June 10), the ministry said in a note sent to all the Saudi companies and establishments involved in providing services related to Umrah.
Several Muslims are inclined to perform Umrah during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, associated with the highest levels of piety and charitable activities.
A higher number of Muslims will be able to travel to Makkah and perform Umrah during the holy month due to the extension by the ministry.
The authorities in the kingdom regulate the Umrah and Haj seasons to ensure that the holy sites in and around Makkah as well as the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah, 420 kilometres to the north, and hotels are able to accommodate the millions of visitors.
According to official figures, the Saudi authorities last year issued 6.4 million visas to Muslims to perform Umrah.
The figure was 7 per cent higher than in 2015 when slightly less than six million visas were issued.
Egyptians topped the list in 2016 with 1,303,067 visas, a 17 per cent increase over the 2015 figures.
Pakistanis came second with 991,337 visas, up by 287,024 over the previous year, and Indonesians were third with 699,612 visas, a 7.2 per cent increase over 2015.
The overall figures do not include nationals from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries who do not require visas to enter Saudi Arabia.
The GCC, established in 1981, is made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.